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South Jersey

Thursday, March 29, 2001

Battleship guided to new Camden pier

CHRIS LaCHALL/Courier-Post
The USS New Jersey is guided to another pier at the Broadway Terminal.

Visit these related links:
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    Courier-Post Staff

    The tug Z-One tooted and churned water as it hugged the hull of the black-and-gray battleship USS New Jersey.

    With its 4,200 horsepower, the Z-One was the most powerful of four McAllister Co. tugboats that moved the historic 61- year-old naval warship Wednesday out of one pier and into one 200 yards away at the Broadway Terminal of the South Jersey Port Corp. in South Camden.

    Joseph Balzano, executive director of the port corporation and a Home Port Alliance trustee, said the corporation wanted to vacate Pier 1 so cargo operations could resume there. A ship carrying lumber is expected there on Friday, he said.

    "This is a big success story for the battleship and for the port, because once the ship is gone, we will have another pier to use for unloading cargo ships," Balzano said.

    The battleship was snug alongside Pier H by nightfall in a three-hour operation that was smooth but tricky.

    McAllister President Frank Hessert, who was monitoring marine radio conversations between the river pilot and the tugs, said the tugs had to avoid underwater remnants from the collapse of a 100-year-old pier in an area now partially covered by a barge.

    "It was a little nerve-racking, but now I'll sleep better tonight," said Hessert, who gave the Home Port Alliance a reduced price for the work.

    The 887-foot New Jersey - several hundred feet longer than its new 600-foot berth - will get teak for its deck, paint and other repairs in a $6 million refurbishing to make it into a public museum. A few volunteers were on hand Wednesday to ease the warship into place at Pier H.

    "I'm here because I'm an American and for Camden," said Camden firefighter Joe Ante of Haddonfield, who volunteers for repair duty on the ship and who helped handle one of the mooring lines to secure the ship to the pier.

    "I did not have the privilege of serving in the military, and this is a way of serving my country."

    The ship was pushed backward into the Delaware River from Pier 1 near St. Lawrence Cement, then pushed 200 yards south to the other pier.

    Meanwhile, the nonprofit alliance met privately Wednesday night at the port to discuss logistics of its first public meeting, which will be held April 11 at the Delaware River Port Authority headquarters. The board also was scheduled to discuss a policy on youth volunteers aboard the ship during the restoration period, but no details from the meeting were immediately released.

    The ship's next and final move will be to a new pier that has yet to be constructed near the New Jersey Aquarium, several miles farther up the Delaware River on the Camden Waterfront. The opening of the ship is still scheduled for Sept. 2. Although a ban on pile driving is in effect during shad spawning season through June 30, the state will allow the alliance to drive piles and use monitoring equipment to detect the effect on the fish. The state will evaluate the results of the monitoring to determine whether the ban should remain in place for future projects.

    The Eagle Marine Company of Blackwood again supplied temporary line-handlers aboard ship and on the dock. Accompanying them on the ship were several dozen alliance staff members and volunteers that included some of the ship' s former Navy crew members. Marine artist David Boone of Oaklyn repainted some of the ship's artwork in the morning and then took a dream-come-true trip on the ship. "It doesn' t get any better than this," he said, smiling and standing at a railing on the main deck as the ship moved.

    The move cost an estimated $20,000, officials said.

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